What is drama therapy?

I was doing drama therapy on myself long before I ever heard the term.

Humans throughout history have used the arts therapeutically (to achieve a positive, healing, or otherwise beneficial effect).

The arts can help us process and regulate emotions, connect with others, and make meaning from our experiences.

The Roots of Drama Therapy

Western theatre history often starts with the Greeks and Romans. Drama was an important part of their cultural and religious festivals. You may have heard of the Greek philosopher Aristotle. He wrote about the importance of catharsis. This is the feeling of emotional release we experience after reading poetry or a novel, watching a film or TV show, or seeing a play.

The creative arts therapies (art therapy, drama therapy, dance/movement therapy, music therapy, poetry therapy) and expressive arts therapy (which combines all of the above) are the intentional use of these therapeutic qualities to reach a goal.

An artist may experience some therapeutic benefits inherently as a part of their work. A lot of people have creative hobbies for this reason. Creating art of any kind can be a joyful experience.

But creating a space for intentionally focusing on the therapeutic qualities within the creative process can increase those positive benefits! Creative arts therapy helps promotes self-understanding and emotional release, which helps create positive change in people’s lives.

We all have many different parts of self, or “roles,” that we play in our lives. This could be social roles like parent, child, sibling, partner, friend, or neighbor. A role could come from our work identities, or be related to our hobbies and interests. We might identify with archetypes from literature or history, or connect to role models which represent something we aspire to be. Or we might be aware of having an Inner Critic, or an Inner Child.

Drama therapy can help you be able to see the interactions and relationships between these roles in a new way. This can create more agency in choosing how to react, or which part of Self we want to put forward in a given situation.

“When I started experiencing non-epileptic seizures and got my official diagnosis of Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures (PNES), I spiraled because I knew that my diagnosis grew its roots from my complex traumatic experiences and attachment wounds from childhood, areas I thought I had healed and processed (or at least buried deep enough).

Had I known about drama therapy, I would have gladly signed myself up for Dana’s services. Let me tell you why.

I could have talked to the pieces of me that were broken (most specifically my inner child) or the people that contributed to my brokenness (like my father) in a safe place, with a safe person, while experiencing a safe response.

Drama therapy allows clients to show up with all of their pieces, the good parts, the bad parts, the ugly parts, the hidden parts, and the therapist helps to figure out how those pieces can fit together in the best way possible.

At the end of the day, we are all humans and who we are is built from our many, many interactions, with others and with ourselves.

Imagine being able to learn how to interact healthier, with more intention, mindfully, and aware-fully with others and yourself; that’s what Dana can provide with their therapeutic approach.

In a world that needs healing and a greater understanding of the intersectional identities of all humans, drama therapy is an answer.”

Tonee Rice, LPC

How is Drama Therapy Different?

Drama therapy is inherently interdisciplinary. It pulls from a more varied history and research base than many other healing approaches. Anthropology, Sociology, Communications, and Linguistics influence drama therapy as much as Psychology does.

Drama therapy is also beneficial because it is embodied. This means it is informed by sensory information and how emotions feel inside our bodies, instead of focusing on thoughts. Drama therapy works to integrate what we feel with what we think, and to notice how the two interact together.

Psychological research is beginning to prove that our emotions are connected to our nervous systems and internal organs. When you have a “gut feeling” about something, that’s real! Information is being sent from your brain through the Vagus nerve, which extends from your brain stem and circles around all your vital internal organs.

You can’t actually separate your body from your brain. Which is why a drama therapist will use both!

Theatre artists explore our life experience to deeply understand our motivations, beliefs, and behavior patterns. Empathy helps us tap into deep emotions, but we also have to be able to navigate our own triggers and recognize when we are getting overwhelmed.

Actors use breath, movement, vocalizations, and other techniques to explore their relationship to their bodies and emotions. And we can share these tools with others who want to learn to be more creative, spontaneous, and expressive.

There are also many reasons why verbal processing might not be accessible or beneficial for you. Drama therapy can use movement, gesture, and other forms of non-verbal communication. Which makes it much more flexible and adaptable than other approaches.

Who I Am

I have an educational background in Theatre and Performance Studies.

I have experience as an actor, director, dramaturge, playwright, teaching artist, and with elements of technical theatre (costuming, makeup, props). I bring my experience as a theatre artist to the table, and use those tools as a part of my work.

I am queer and trans non-binary, and I know from lived experience how harmful it can be to seek out affirming healthcare services as a member of the LGBTQ / LGBTQIA+ community. I can provide LGBTQ affirming and sex-positive services to anyone who is struggling with issues related to gender and/or sexual orientation. I also have experience with kink / BDSM, polyamory / non-monogamy, and neurodivergence (Autistic / ADHD / 2e).

Who is Drama Therapy Good For?

Drama therapy can help anyone who struggles to regulate emotional reactions to life stress! Which is just about everyone at one point or another.

I am passionate about healing trauma, especially childhood trauma. Trauma triggers can feel confusing and overwhelming. It is often easier to make sense of them through color, texture, metaphor, etc. instead of language.

I am also passionate about supporting helping professionals. This includes therapists, social workers, doctors, nurses, teachers, etc. So often, you take care of everyone else and neglect yourself! We can explore what makes it hard to take care of yourself. Then, we can create nurturing and creative self-care rituals to release stress instead of holding it in your body.

I believe strongly in cultural humility, and working from a social justice lens. Living in a white supremacist capitalist cisheteropatriarchy is traumatic. Minority stress has real, tangible impacts on physical as well as emotional and psychological health.

I want to work with marginalized communities to unpack internalized oppression, and develop sustainable creative rituals for processing stress and trauma.

If you want to learn more, contact me to set up a free consultation!